GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN
The sedra of Lech Lecha opens with God commanding Abraham to leave his home. This is when we meet our forefather from whom our traditions and legacy began. Abraham would guide his family through rough terrain and new lands to sanctify the name of God. He would teach monotheism and preach to those around him of the wonders that lie beneath nature.
We meet his beautiful wife Sarah and learn of her true strength as our mother. She would build her family and together they would build a nation. We learn from her about true loving-kindness and how to live a life of righteousness and modesty.
The characters and stories from the book of Bereshit are more than simple lessons in history. They have immense meaning and subtle messages for living life with ethics and piety.
Abraham is told by God “to go out from his Land, his place of birth and from his father’s home,” but these instructions seem out of order. When we go on holiday we first leave our house, then our town and then our country. Abraham is charged with an important mission, to teach the world a new concept – a belief in ONE GOD. In a time when idolatry was prevalent, Abraham’s concepts and beliefs were contentious and provocative, opposing the normative belief systems. By wording Abraham’s journey thus, the Torah teaches that standing up for our beliefs is hardest with the people we are closest to. He would first challenge the world as one subtle voice amidst the busy population, unknown and at times unheard. He would also travel to his home town, seeing people he knew, making it harder for him. Finally, he would go to his father’s home, to counter his family and the very beliefs he grew up with – his greatest challenge. This, in turn, is our greatest challenge. At times we succumb to peer pressure and can be easily swept up in its tidal wave, but Abraham teaches us to stick to our principles, though this might be hardest with people we know.
In our lives we too have to be role models, to our family and friends and to the wider world, which is best achieved when we practise what we preach. When we hold on to our principles despite surrounding cultures and pressures and recognise our important mission in this world as Jews, we follow in Abraham’s legacy and can draw strength from his courage.